Film

How Marvel's 'X-men: First Class' Classed Up the X-men Films

Michael Fassbender as Erik/Magneto in X-men: First Class (2011) (Photo by Photo: Murray Close - © 2011 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, All Rights Reserved / IMDB)

Matthew Vaughn's X-Men: First Class refocuses the series onto its political and socially conscious origins, as well as the philosophical debate at the core of Magneto and Xavier's relationship.

As I discussed in my previous article on The Incredible Hulk (Letterier, 2008), the first mentions of "superhero fatigue" began to pop up in 2008. By 2011, that term had fully entered the lexicon. Each time a comic book film was underwhelming, or underperformed at the box office, a hundred articles declared that this could mean the end of the superhero film craze. This practice continues today, seven yeas later, and not one of them has been correct so far.

Throughout 2011 there was no shortage of comic book films. After two relatively light years, studios finally responded to the comic book films of 2008, which was a banner year for the genre. But for a variety of reasons, from poor script (Green Lantern, Campbell, 2011) to unrealistic expectations (The Green Hornet, Gondry, 2011), many superhero films did disappoint. Hence, the predictions of fatigue. In the case of the excellent X-Men: First Class (Vaughn, 2011) however, I argue that its biggest challenge was overcoming the reputation that the X-Men series had garnered after two very poor films in the series were released. Audiences were not fatigued with superhero films at the time -- just with bad superhero films. And so, the story of X-Men: First Class is the story of its filmmakers attempting to distance and differentiate this film from its failed predecessors.

The series began with X-Men (2000), which is credited with beginning this century's glut of superhero films. Directed by Bryan Singer, the film accomplishes the gargantuan task of establishing the world of the X-Men, over a dozen major characters, and still telling a decent story. This world features a growing population of mutants, humans who develop special abilities at puberty, and the growing unease amongst ordinary humans, who largely view mutants' differences as a threat. It focuses on those who strive for peaceful coexistence between mutants and humans, represented by Professor Xavier's X-Men, and those who strive for mutant supremacy over humans, represented by Magneto's Brotherhood. X-Men took its subject matter very seriously, openly engaging with real-world parallels such as racism, homophobia, and many other situations in which a group was marginalized for its differences. This allegory for tolerance (or intolerance, as it were) has been present since the early X-Men comics of the '60s, and it's part of what makes the property so enduringly popular. It set a serious, intelligent tone which inspired many of the best comic book films that followed. In X2: X-Men United (Singer, 2003), the filmmakers took advantage of the hard work (establishing the world, the tone, and the characters) as done in the first film, and created an incredibly entertaining blockbuster that remains one of my favourite Marvel films.

But then, after two highly successful films, the franchise took a negative turn. Singer and his collaborators left the third film during pre-production, forcing the studio, 20th Century Fox, to quickly replace them and forge ahead. If that was not problematic enough, there seemed to be a sense that X-Men: The Last Stand (Ratner, 2006), as the third film in a trilogy, would wrap up the current X-Men series to make way for new directions in the future. The result is a film that is tonally inconsistent with the previous X-Men films; it's overstuffed with too many plots and characters, and features many moments designed to end the series by either killing or disempowering key characters. Although successful at the box office, X-Men: The Last Stand is considered the nadir of the X-Men films. It dug a hole and future films would have to dig their way out. The initial idea from the producers was to spin off prequel films, focusing on the backstories of popular characters. They began, unsurprisingly, with Wolverine, the breakout character from the trilogy. Unfortunately, X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Hood, 2009) was an absolute mess, with an unfinished script and a lot of behind the scenes drama. It did little to improve the X-Men's tarnished cinematic image. When Wolverine underperformed, Fox and the X-Men producers found themselves at a crossroads with the franchise.

Prior to the release of The Last Stand, when Fox first commissioned the Wolverine screenplay, it hired writer Sheldon Turner to pen a prequel film focused on villain Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto. Portrayed in the X-Men trilogy by Ian McKellan, the character is one of Marvel's most fascinating, layered villains. As established in X-Men, and true to the comics, Erik is a German Jew who first demonstrates his mutant power to manipulate magnetic fields and metal when he is separated from his parents at Auschwitz. This memorable scene opened X-Men, and thus the franchise as a whole. Erik grows into a man who resolves not to let the fate of the Jews of the Holocaust befall mutants, particularly since he views mutants as inherently superior to mere mortals.

He's opposed by his onetime friend, Professor Charles Xavier, portrayed by Patrick Stewart in the X-Men trilogy. Xavier is a telepath who creates a school for mutants and founds the X-Men to promote peace between humans and mutants. Erik and Xavier's differences lie primarily in their methods. Is the best way to ensure mutant survival peace? or war? They're not enemies, as they're both strong advocates for their species and hope to bring the other over to their point of view. Indeed, that Magneto and Xavier characters are often compared to Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. in the American Civil Rights Movement: same mission, different methods. Turner's Magneto screenplay took place from 1939 to 1955, tracking Erik through Auschwitz, his liberation by a military unit led by Xavier, his Nazi hunting following the war, and his eventual falling out with Xavier.

X-Men First Class #1 / Marvel Comics

Soon after Turner began working on Magneto another spin-off film idea began to develop. This film focused on a younger group of X-Men, originally pitched as the characters Rogue, Iceman, Kitty Pryde from the X-Men trilogy. That idea soon shifted when, inspired by the Marvel comic book X-Men: First Class (published September 2006 to April 2007), the X-Men producers decide to focus on the older X-Men team (Cyclops, Jean Grey, Storm) in their youth. Meanwhile, in an effort to rehabilitate the franchise after two poorly-received films, Fox hired Bryan Singer to return and direct the young X-Men film. Singer claimed that he started the film from scratch, using no other previous material, but that's clearly not the case.

In 2009, Fox announced that it was cancelling the Magneto prequel film. The stated reason was that Singer's film covered much of the same territory, making the prequel unnecessary. Indeed, the young X-Men film covered so much of the same territory that, after a Writer's Guild of America arbitration, Sheldon Turner received a story credit on what would eventually be called X-Men: First Class. Clearly Singer liked many elements of Turner's script, rightfully so, and he folded them into his burgeoning story of the first X-Men team. This was likely a strategic move on the part of Fox as well, since its first single-character film (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) had stumbled and the studio seemed keen to return to the successful team formula of the X-Men trilogy. Singer set the film in the early '60s, thus making Magneto's Nazi hunting fit the timeline better, as well as distancing the film even further from the X-Men trilogy. It would also focus on an entirely different set of X-Men characters from an earlier era.

Singer left the project to focus on Jack the Giant Slayer (Singer, 2013), remaining only as a producer, and Fox hired Matthew Vaughn to take over as director. Vaughn, fresh off the modest success of the inventive, violent Kick-Ass (2010), had previously been attached to direct X-Men: The Last Stand and Thor (Branagh, 2011), and now he finally had the opportunity to direct a Marvel film. He had a strong vision for the film, and hired new writers to shape the existing Singer script. Vaughn wanted First Class to be a fresh start for the franchise, and for it to stand on its own, separate from the previous films. He was partially overruled on this, however, causing First Class to feel uncomfortably like a half-reboot and half-prequel, which I will discuss in detail below.

Vaughn was very taken with the period aspects of the film, which takes place primarily in 1962 and uses the Cuban Missile Crisis as a backdrop. X-Men Origins: Wolverine is technically the first period Marvel film, but it failed to engage with its setting in any meaningful way. First Class doesn't make the same mistake. Vaughn viewed the style of the film as X-Men crossed with early James Bond crossed with the films of John Frankenheimer. He filled the film with stylish period costumes and attitudes, and direct references to '60s filmmaking such as a United States war room straight out of Dr. Strangelove (Kubrick, 1964). More subtly, Vaughn also shot the film in a '60s style with traditional framing and toned-down camera movement and editing. X-Men: First Class certainly doesn't feel like a film made in the '60s, but it uses enough of these period-appropriate touches to convey the era nicely.

In terms of the story and character focus, the filmmakers made the smart choice to build the film around Erik/Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and Xavier (James McAvoy). Their relationship is reliably fascinating in the comics, and First Class expands on their fundamental debate beyond what was in the original trilogy. Erik begins the story feeling angry and isolated by his powers, using them to single-handedly hunt down the Nazis who tortured him during the Second World War. Xavier begins the story from a place of curiosity but also apprehension regarding mutants, making him no less isolated. Through each other, the two men are exposed to new ideas. Chiefly, they open themselves up to the larger mutant community for support. By the end of the film, however, while Xavier's curiosity transitions to genuine compassion and a desire to teach mutants, Erik's anger transitions to calls for mutant supremacy. Erik and Xavier help to shape each other before being separated by a hopeless philosophical divide.

Michael Fassbender as Erik Lensherr (IMDB)

First Class is also aided immeasurably by tremendous actors in the lead roles. I would argue that Michael Fassbender is one of the greatest actors of his generation, and he's incredibly powerful as Erik. He plays the character with a confident swagger and simmering anger wrapped in an undeniable charisma that makes me root for his character perhaps more than I should. Meanwhile, McAvoy intentionally begins his portrayal in opposition to the Stewart portrayal in the original films. Stewart's Xavier was sexless, egoless and selfless, so the young Xavier is precisely the opposite. He begins the film as an arrogant man who uses his telepathy to hit on women at bars, but then credibly evolves into a deeply caring teacher and crusader.

Beyond the leads, the film also scored Jennifer Lawrence to play Mystique. Now, Lawrence is one of the world's biggest movie stars, but she was a relative unknown at the time. She had recently made an impression in the little-seen, but very good, Winter's Bone (Granik, 2010), for which she later earned an Oscar nomination. Vaughn cast talented actors just before they became stars, and he deserves a lot of credit for that.

He also deserves credit for successfully completing the film on an incredibly tight production schedule. X-Men: First Class began shooting 31 August 2010, and it was released on 3 June 2011. That's just under ten months from the start of filming to the release, which isn't much time for a film of this size. For some perspective, Thor had 16 months between the start of filming and the release. Typically, a condensed schedule like this is a recipe for disaster, and I would be using it to explain why a film failed. Not in this case. Vaughn pulls off X-Men: First Class with panache, and the X-Men franchise finally began its long road to recovery.

If there's any doubt about the intentions of the filmmakers to restore the X-Men series to its former glory, it's dispelled by the opening sequence. X-Men: First Class opens nearly identically to X-Men (Singer, 2000), with a young Erik (Bill Milner) being separated from his parents in Auschwitz and, in his pain, using his powers for the first time. The scene is expanded upon, as it is now viewed by Klaus Schmidt (Kevin Bacon), a Nazi scientist modelled after the "Angel of Death", Josef Mengele. Schmidt is fascinated by mutants, and wants to help Erik develop his powers. In an effort to persuade Erik to move a metal coin across a desk using telekinesis, Schmidt threatens to shoot Erik's mother if he fails. After the count of three, when Erik has failed, Schmidt kills her. Erik erupts in a fit of rage, causing all of the metal in the room to react. Schmidt is sadistically overjoyed, and Erik comes to believe that only through anger can he summon his power.

One of Drury Lane Theatre's many chandeliers (photo: K. Zarker)

These scenes are intercut with the sweet sequence of a young Charles Xavier (Laurence Belcher) discovering Raven (Morgan Lilly) breaking into the kitchen of his posh Westchester mansion. Raven can shapeshift and Xavier can read minds. Xavier immediately takes her in, making Mystique the first mutant welcomed by Xavier into his mansion. And so, Erik and Xavier begin their stories at very different points.

In 1962, Erik (Michael Fassbender) has spent his life searching for Schmidt, killing every Nazi he finds along the way. Here we get the first real taste of the period flavour of First Class. Fassbender plays Erik as suave but dangerous and confident, a predator. The character's stylish costuming, globetrotting mission, and penchant for violence certainly invokes '60s James Bond, as Vaughn intended. Erik spends a tense scene in Switzerland, interrogating a banker by threatening to magnetically pull out one of the metal fillings in his mouth. The banker suggests he might go to Argentina, a country to which many Nazi officials fled after the war. The tension in the banker scene is a mere taste of the subsequent scene in Argentina, the first of several highlights in the film.

In Argentina, Erik enters a bar and jovially relates, as a fellow German, to the two Nazi war criminals he finds there. He then reveals that his parents were victims of the Holocaust, and the three men then take an entertainingly long, tense sip of beer before Erik unleashes his fury on them. The rising tension reminded me of the other long, tense scene in which Fassbender sneaks into a bar filled with Nazis in Inglourious Basterds (Tarantino, 2009). The First Class scene is much shorter, but nearly as good. Erik is methodical and creative. He stabs one Nazi in the hand, forces the bartender's gun to shoot the other, uses his powers to stab the bartender then bring the knife back to impale the first Nazi's hand again. After that Erik pauses and takes another drink. Nazis are reliable villains for a hero to kill without hesitation. If Fassbender's charisma didn't already have viewers on Erik's side, this scene will. It ends with Erik finding a photograph that will lead him to Schmidt's boat in Florida.

Michael Fassbender as Erik Lensherr, Rose Byrne as Moira MacTaggert, and James McAvoy as Charles Xavier (24 Years) (© 2011 - FOX / IMDB)

Meanwhile, CIA agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) is investigating strange dealings at the Hellfire Club in Las Vegas, which is established in a neat bit of '60s stock footage. MacTaggert follows a United States general (Glenn Morshower) into the club where she happens upon Schmidt, now calling himself Sebastian Shaw, and his team of mutants: Emma Frost (January Jones), Azazel (Jason Flemyng) and Riptide (Álex González). Shaw convinces the general to support a plan to place US missiles in Turkey. MacTaggert, meanwhile, seeks out an expert in genetic mutation to advise her on Shaw's team. The filmmakers depict mutants mostly hidden from the general public, with the human characters learning of their existence for the first time. In this way, First Class feels like an X-Men origin film, if not a reboot, and it takes its time to establish the world of mutants. There are evidently few mutants in the world, and they discover their identity and communal strength throughout the events of this film.

The genetics expert is Charles Xavier, recently granted his PhD at Oxford University, making him a professor. MacTaggert invites Xavier and his adopted sister, Raven (Jennifer Lawrence), to brief the CIA on mutants. They are initially rejected, until Raven shapeshifts into one of them, and then they're seen as a threat. The only open-minded official in the room is the Man in the Black Suit (Oliver Platt), who invites them to his facility. They track Shaw to Florida, where he escapes in a submarine. They also meet Erik, and Xavier begins their friendship by saving Erik from killing himself in pursuit of Shaw. They retreat to the Man in Black's facility, where they meet his top scientist, Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult). This is a fun moment, as Xavier cheerfully greets Hank as a fellow mutant after reading his mind but not realizing that he's still closeted. Hank and Raven grow close, both upset with their mutated physical appearance (Raven is naturally blue and scaly, while Hank has large, prehensile feet to match his increased agility), and bond over hopes to "fix" themselves.

Meanwhile, Hank builds a machine, Cerebro, capable of amplifying Xavier's telepathy. Xavier asks Erik to help him recruit mutants to counter Shaw's team and through Cerebro they identify a number of possibilities. This leads to another highlight: a recruitment montage, set to the anachronistic but catchy "Run (I'm a Natural Disaster)" by Gnarls Barkley. Erik and Xavier bond as they meet Angel (Zoë Kravitz), Banshee (Caleb Landry Jones), Darwin (Edi Gathegi), and Havok (Lucas Till), while failing to recruit Wolverine (Hugh Jackman). The Hugh Jackman cameo is just perfect. Erik and Xavier introduce themselves, Wolverine says "go fuck yourselves", and they leave. Beautiful. The film then slows down to allow the team of young mutant recruits to bond over some sodas. They show off each other's powers, create each other's nicknames, and just have a good time openly being mutants. Moments like these are often in danger of being cut for time in blockbusters, but part of the strong world-building of First Class involves letting the characters have these character-driven interactions.

But the plot continues. Erik and Xavier track Shaw to a meeting with a Soviet general (Rade Šerbedžija). They're disappointed to see that Emma Frost, not Shaw, attends the meeting, but Erik rushes in anyway. The filmmakers continue establishing Erik as the breakout star of the film by making him the renegade of the group. He is the Han Solo or the Wolverine of this particular X-Men film. I found myself wondering during my most recent viewing if Erik is such a standout because the Magneto-centric film was a primary basis for First Class and the screenplay naturally favoured him. Xavier reads Frost's mind to discover Shaw's master plan: he arranged for the United States to install weapons in Turkey, threatening the Soviets, then he plans to manipulate the Soviets into putting missiles in Cuba, threatening the United States. He will then push tensions toward a nuclear war, reasoning that only mutants would be capable of surviving the fallout. The plan is silly, comic book villain logic, but reference to real-world events elevates it some. The stage is then set for the climax, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, when the newly created X-Men must prevent Shaw from igniting a war.

Before that, however, Shaw discovers that Erik and Xavier are recruiting mutants. He raids the CIA facility, kills all of the agents and suggests the mutant recruits join him. Angel switches sides, and Darwin is killed trying to stop them. Upon their return, Xavier and Erik take the remaining mutants to Xavier's Westchester mansion to hide and prepare. This training montage is my favourite part of the film. As a full-time teacher, I'm always touched by inspirational teaching that's well-depicted on screen. Xavier comes into his own, telling each team member precisely what they need to hear to fulfill their potential. Banshee learns to direct his sonic screams to allow flight. Hank learns to let loose his animalistic nature to physically excel. Hank also creates a suit to allow Havok to direct the chaotic energy blasts from his torso. The montage culminates with Xavier teaching Erik that his power need not only come from anger, and reaching into his mind to highlight a happy memory of young Erik lighting a menorah with his mother. Erik then draws on the peaceful memory to tearfully, joyfully generate more magnetic power than ever before. The scene is truly beautiful, well-acted by McAvoy and Fassbender, and it caps off the terrific sequence. By placing the focus of the film on Xavier and Erik, First Class accomplishes things that no previous X-Men film had, such as showing Xavier as an actual teacher.

James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender (IMDB)

But the seeds are planted for Erik's turn as well. He convinces Raven that she's beautiful in her obviously mutant blue form and that she shouldn't hide her nature. She tries to seduce Erik, even morphing to look like an older version of herself (played by Rebecca Romijn in the second-best cameo of the film). That same night, the heart of Erik and Xavier's divide is explained during a chess match between them, echoing the final scene of X-Men. Xavier believes their cooperation with the CIA are the first steps towards peaceful coexistence. Erik claims that there can never be peace between mutants and humans, and he agrees with Shaw's views of mutant supremacy. Meanwhile, Hank develops a serum from Raven's blood that could cure his and Raven's appearances. Raven rejects the serum, but Hank takes it and it backfires. He mutates further, turning into a furry, blue Beast on the eve of the climax.

The final set takes place off the coast of Cuba, as an American fleet faces off with a Soviet fleet at the embargo line set by the United States. Shaw arranges for a Soviet freighter to cross the line, igniting conflict. Most blockbusters play out their climaxes with a sense of inevitability, good will defeat evil. But First Class slightly plays with expectations. Here, traditional enemies, Xavier and Erik are on the same side with a common enemy in Shaw, going into a well-known historical conflict, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and it's not clear how this will play out. The climax is very well-staged, with each member of Xavier's team given a key moment to shine paying from their earlier character development. Also, although the fate of the world hangs in the balance, the conflict feels smaller in scale than many comic book films, which is refreshing. Finally, by focusing on younger characters, Vaughn limits the use of their powers. When we last saw Magneto on film in The Last Stand, he was moving the Golden Gate Bridge with little effort. In this film, Erik lifts Shaw's submarine from the water with incredible effort. Less outrageous uses of powers make the characters more relatable.

Erik drops the submarine on the beach and enters it in search of Shaw. Shaw gets the drop on him, and then monologues about the supremacy of mutants. Erik takes an opportunity to remove Shaw's helmet, which protects him from Xavier's telepathy, allowing Xavier to telepathically hold him in place. Erik then tells Shaw that, though he fundamentally agrees with him, Shaw must be punished for killing Erik's mother. To have one of the heroes of the film admit that he agrees with the villain's point of view, then kill the villain anyway, is a bold move. This is particularly true after the filmmakers have viewers sympathize with and root for Erik throughout, as well as present Xavier as a peaceful counterpoint.

Erik kills Shaw, immediately taking his place as the major villain. It was inevitable, but First Class plays the birth of Magneto so well. Furthermore, Shaw's death is staged beautifully. Erik takes the coin he failed to move in Auschwitz but saved to this point and counts to three as he slowly moves it through Shaw's head. The camera follows the coin as it passes through, and this shot is intercut with a matching shot moving past Xavier's head. Xavier is connected to Shaw telepathically, so he "feels" the coin cutting through his head as well. It's a moment steeped in character, history and expectation, and pulled off perfectly on a technical level.

Photo by Murray Close (IMDB)

Erik emerges from the submarine and preaches about mutant supremacy, convinced that his new enemy is humanity and echoing Shaw. Fassbender is so compelling that I don't even mind his full, native Irish accent suddenly emerging in this scene. As if in response, the American and Soviet fleets fire at the mutants on the beach. Erik stops the missiles and turns them back on the firing fleets. The scene then devolves into a brawl between Xavier and Erik, as Xavier tries to distract Erik and save the sailors. Fox executives reportedly wanted this fight to involve the greater use of powers, but Vaughn smartly asserted that this early in their careers, it would be a physical fight. In the fight, MacTaggert shoots at Erik, and he deflects one of the bullets into Xavier's lower back. Erik tries to blame MacTaggert, but Xavier places the blame firmly on him. The friendship is torn asunder, and they take separate paths. Erik leaves with Shaw's group as well as Raven, and the rest of the mutants tend to Xavier, who will now be confined to a wheelchair.

In the end, the existence of mutants is classified by government officials. Xavier erases MacTaggert's mind to protect his nascent mutant school. And finally, Erik, now calling himself Magneto, frees Emma Frost from custody to add her to his growing Brotherhood.

X-Men: First Class went a long way towards rehabilitating the X-Men series after the failures of X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men: Origins: Wolverine. It's a colourful, smart, well-staged, classical blockbuster that makes great use of period styles and historical events. It refocuses the series onto its political and socially conscious origins, as well as the philosophical debate at the core of Magneto and Xavier's relationship. The film also makes good use of its talented cast. It even manages to be more accurate to the comics in some respects, notably the costumes. X-Men received a lot of criticism from the early internet fanbase for its decision to have the X-Men wear black leather costumes rather than the colourful comic book outfits. I believe this was the right choice for the time. However, with film audiences more used to wacky comic book concepts, and with the '60s setting and styles as a plausible excuse, the team wears matching blue and yellow outfits in the climax that matches with the original costumes in the comics. Like I said, nearly everything about this film is perfect.

I say nearly, because I have one nitpick: the discontinuity. As I stated above, Vaughn wanted a full reboot, but some writers argued for more consistency with the original X-Men films. As a result, some things are consistent such as: the Auschwitz scene, Xavier's Westchester Mansion sets, designs of Xavier's wheelchair, Mystique's blue look, the X-jet, and appearances by Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Romijn. Other things, however, don't conform such as: Hank building Cerebro, Xavier and Mystique being childhood friends, another Moira MacTaggert in X-Men: The Last Stand, and another Emma Frost in X-Men: Origins: Wolverine. These may be minor points, but they're irritating to some fans, particularly with the rise of shared universes.

After The Avengers (Whedon, 2012) demonstrated the possibility of an overarching continuity through multiple franchises, every Hollywood studio looked for their own shared universe. Fox recognized that it already had a major shared universe in the X-Men films. But since it was not planned as such, there's no continuity. This was somehow helped and worsened by the next X-Men team film, the time travel adventure X-Men: Days of Future Past (Singer, 2014), which united the casts of the original films with the First Class cast.

But I won't criticize X-Men: First Class too heavily for discontinuity when, on its own terms, it's a fantastic film. Unfortunately, audiences did not give it much of a chance. X-Men: First Class was the lowest grossing X-Men film by far in North America, and only just outgrossed the first X-Men film worldwide. Although it went a long way to improving the quality of the X-Men films, audiences were slow to catch up. The next film in the franchise, The Wolverine (Mangold, 2013) continued to improve the quality of the films, while also continuing to make less money. This was not superhero fatigue so much as audiences losing faith in the product after a couple of bad films. But now, separate from all of that, I urge people to check out X-Men: First Class, a film that earns its subtitle.

* * *

Stan Lee Cameo Corner: Stan Lee claimed that X-Men: First Class was filmed in a location too far away for him to cameo, so no Stan. That's 13 cameos in 23 films.

This is my first article since the passing of Stan Lee on 12 November 2018. I don't think that I could ever put into words the level of enjoyment that I have received from his creations. I'm devoting years to writing analyses of every Marvel film, if that's any indication. Lee co-created an astonishing number of popular and significant comic book properties in the early '60s, but also became the face of the comic book industry to countless fans for decades. He lived long enough to see his creations overtake Hollywood, and had cameos in as many films as he could muster. I look forward to continuing to see him in cameos as I continue my Marvel Film series, but it will now be tinged with a bit of sadness. RIP Stan. 'Nuff said.

Credits Scene(s): There's no scene during or after the credits, which was unusual at this point.

First Appearances:

  • Much of the cast returned for future X-Men films, despite many becoming increasingly famous in the intervening years. Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Rose Byrne, and Lucas Till all reprised their respective roles.
  • Composer Henry Jackman, who creates a great, brassy score that seems to reference Michael Kamen's X-Men score, would return to Marvel films for the Captain America sequels
  • Screenwriter Jane Goldman contributed to the story of X-Men: Days of Future Past (Singer, 2014)

Next Time: In keeping with the period superhero trend, Marvel Studios heads back to the Second World War to introduce Captain America: The First Avenger.

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